Ripple Effect

by Elizabeth Kirts, MPH, ICCE, IBCLC, RLC

For me, the month of April gets me thinking about spring and is the bridge to my favorite season of summer. Today, I woke up to about 3 inches of snow in my yard; not exactly what I hoped for when it was warm and sunny just a few days ago. But typical of my “Pollyanna” self, I decided to focus on the beauty of the snow and the fact that we really need the water in the mountains to fill the reservoirs for summer. So, I donned my warm weather clothes and headed to the office looking at the beauty of the snow and marveling in the resiliency of life.

Knowing that my trees and flowers will bounce back when it warms up in a few days is hopeful. All of us face challenges that are much more complex than a little snow but also bounce back. Our ability to adapt and recover from these challenges is really remarkable.

Two years ago, all of us were still struggling to comprehend what was going on and how we would navigate a pandemic. Working in a hospital setting we had a lot of guidance and support along with fear and heavy workloads. Educators were navigating online teaching and doulas were trying to figure out their role and how to get into hospital settings. My lactation team was trying to figure out how to do a consult from 6 feet away. How long would this last?

Looking back, my first thought is always “Who knew?!” This is something I say frequently when talking about what we’ve faced as individuals, communities, and humanity as a whole. For me personally, I lost a child and found myself single again after 30 years. I managed two teams through a pandemic. I relearned epidemiology and contact tracing (skills, I had hoped to never use in real life).

My hospital community has come out relatively unscathed. We had excellent leadership and dedicated staff who pulled together even during the really hard moments. Our community at large rallied around the healthcare staff and other front line workers to provide PPE needed to protect them.

What the last couple of years looked like varies so much for everyone. For some, it was difficult but do-able; others were faced with horrific challenges. And it’s not over. We are using the term endemic now, but we still have to be somewhat cautious. With that caution, we also need to remember compassion.

In the beginning, I heard an analogy that we might all be in the same storm, but aren’t all in the same boat. The grief, loss, trauma, and stress from the past two years is a part of all our lives and it’s different for each of us. We should hold compassion for the individual and what they have experienced. This leads me back to resiliency; the ability to regain ground and continue on after difficulty.

As birth professionals, we will work with families who all have different experiences and levels of resiliency. So many factors go into both of those. Each and every one of us is in a unique place to have an impact on so many families. Educating and empowering others are like a ripple effect and have the potential to affect families, communities, and generations. On those days when you are discouraged or feel like you aren’t doing enough, remember that we never know how the little things may be part of something great. You are so appreciated.

This week is Black Maternal Health Week. As I learn and become aware of the history of health inequities and unethical practices for Black People, I feel sadness, anger, and a desire to know more and do better. I would like to take this moment to commend Jennie Joseph from Commonsense Childbirth and her creation of the JJ Way. Recently she was named Woman of the Year by Time Magazine. If you don’t know about Jennie and her work, I implore you to look at what she has done; the impact she has had for Black Families.

April also recognizes Public Health Week and World Health Day. As a Master of Public Health, I studied health from a population based perspective. I really love this field and am so appreciative of all the public health professionals who went above and beyond to provide information, resources, skills, and evidence based education during the pandemic.

Oftentimes, met with criticism and hostility; yet so many forged on feeling the duty to help society as a whole. The other part of public health is the individual. Although we do look at the population as a whole, we also bring that down to the individual and are trained in health counseling, models of health education, and personal responses. Thank you to all the Public Health Professionals!

In closing, I would like to remind all of you that the Board of Directors at ICEA is continuing to work for you. We have many exciting things that will be presented and opportunities for you to help us expand the recognition of educators and doulas. Thank you for all you do. We are here to support you in your work.